The owners of a zebra that was shot and killed on a Rockett farm just off Farm-to-Market 813 on Thursday afternoon, July 5, said they are offering a $1,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the individual(s) responsible.

The animal belonged to Lorne and Pat McMillan of HiView Farms and was one of many exotic animals on the couple’s property. The Ellis County Sheriff’s Department is conducting the investigation into the death.

“I can’t even comprehend it,” Pat said. “A beautiful thing out there eating grass and people enjoying him, and they just dropped him dead.”

“It’s heartbreaking,” Lorne said. “We have had that animal for eight to 10 years.”

The animal, a male breeding zebra, was shot through the ribs, and the bullet likely passed through the heart and possibly the lungs, leaving a finger-width hole, Lorne said.

He reported to sheriff’s department investigators that he heard a loud noise at about 12:40 p.m. Thursday from his patio while on the phone with his wife, who heard the commotion through the connection.

“There was a terrible bang,” Lorne said. “It had to be a pretty powerful gun.”

He didn’t think anything initially of the noise, but later he and a farm worker went to one of the farm’s pastures to examine some equipment and found the animal’s body.

Sheriff’s Cpt. Danny Williams said officers were dispatched to the 1000 block of Farrar Road.

“At this point, we are investigating this as an intentional act,” he said. “It appears like whoever did the firing was from the road or from the road area.”

The pasture’s gate was locked, but the zebra would have been easily seen from the road, Lorne said.

“I knew it wasn’t a firecracker,” he said of the noise. “I just couldn’t imagine anything as horrible happening.”

Tire tracks were found near the pasture fence and investigators are looking into whether they are connected to the shooting.

Lorne McMillan said that he would turn the bullet, which was still in the animal’s body, over to investigators upon recovery.

Williams said the crime would likely be filed as criminal mischief rather than cruelty to animals because the zebra was considered property, but that because of the monetary value of the animal, about $10,000, either charge would result in state jail time.

“Horses, sheep, swine — they’re considered criminal mischief, instead of cruelty to animals. … It’s personal property,” Williams said. “It’s probably going to be criminal mischief”

The zebra was not insured, but Pat said the couple is suffering not only the monetary loss, but the emotional loss of a beautiful animal and fear for their safety and the safety of their other animals, as well.

“It could have been Lorne out there,” she said. “That’s scary. … I’m very alarmed by it, and we just hate to put things up.”

She said many members of the community enjoy watching the zebras, camels, miniature horses and other exotic creatures on the property, many of which are friendly to passersby, but that the couple will consider keeping the animals locked away from the fences for their protection.

Lorne said a horse on the farm was shot 20 years ago and had to be put down, and a horse had been stolen about 15 years ago, but he knew of no ill will in the area.

In fact, he said, many neighbors have exhibited deep concern for the animals in the past, calling the couple if an animal appeared to be in danger or loose or if a pasture gate was open.

Anyone with information regarding the shooting is asked to contact the sheriff’s department at (972) 937-6060.